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It’s easy, with computers being so ubiquitous in our culture, to assume, depending on your comfort level with tech, that A) everybody already knows how to do all of the basic stuff or B) there will always be someone else around who knows how to do computer “things,” so there’s no reason for you to learn.

While neither of these assumptions are good, the second could actively hurt you, especially in today’s job market. Ten years or maybe even five years ago, you might have been able to get away with not understanding how to do more than turn on your computer. Today, regardless of your age or background, if you want to be employable, there are certain things you need to know how to do.

We all feel like this with our computers sometimes, no matter how old we are!

1. Check Email with Different Software Programs


It’s true that a lot of people have web-based email addresses (Gmail in particular, though Yahoo! and even Hotmail are still holding on). You might even have one yourself. A work-based email address, though, is very rarely web based or even web accessible. Most domain-specific emails (like what you’ll get at work) are checked via software programs like Outlook, Mail, or Thunderbird. Make sure you know how to do the basics (check, send, attach) in each of these programs.

2. Navigate Shared Drives

It’s important that you understand how to get from your own computer’s hard drive to the company’s shared hard drive and the files that are saved there. Most companies require employees to save their files on a shared or cloud drive now (it allows the company to switch out computers quicker and easier). Knowing how to save to different folders that are located in different places is important.

(Yes, there are still people who don’t know how to do these things.)

3. Using Search Engines

There is more to Google (and Bing and Yahoo!) than simply typing in a couple of words or a domain name and picking the first result you find. We’ve become a search-engine-reliant culture, and it is important that you learn how to search quickly for the information you need. Your boss isn’t going to want to wait while you click through 20 pages of search results. Learn how to do Boolean searches and how to use the Advanced Search options most engines offer. You’ll save yourself so much time!

While we’re at it: Typing a URL into the Google search box is unnecessary. If you know the address, type it in the address bar. The couple of seconds you save really adds up!

4. Word Processing

Word processors were the “missing link” between typewriters and computers, and the software does so much more than it used to. Learn how to create a basic document. At the very least, you should learn how to use spell check, create tables, insert graphics, and work with headers. And you should know how to do basic formatting like bold, italics, etc.

Learning to type properly is important. The “hunt and peck” method won’t help you get hired. There are lots of free typing tutorials online. Use them! Also, the “two spaces after a period” rule is over (yeah, I had a hard time letting go of that one, too).

They’re easier than they look!

5. Spreadsheets

You don’t have to know how to create advanced graphs or charts, but you do need to know how to create and, more importantly, work with spreadsheets. Learn how to use formulas, references, and macros. You can find all of this information online, and your local community college undoubtedly has a beginner’s Excel class you can take for a relatively low price. Imagine the possibilities once you can do more than create a basic list of dates and times with your spreadsheet program.

6. Internet-Related Stuff

Learn how to clear your cache, bookmark pages, use tabs, and navigate between browser windows. Learn how to download directly into a file instead of just your downloads folder. Learn how to run your malware programs and how to get rid of a pop-up window on which you don’t want to click. Learn how to spot the basic signs that you might have accidentally downloaded a virus or other malware.

While you’re at it, learn how to find your IP address as well as how to check and fix a network connection.

7. Keyboard Commands


Just about everybody understands how to copy and paste using a mouse (or track pad). Learn how to do this with just your keyboard. You’ll save tons of time.

8. Hardware Lingo

You don’t have to know exactly how your router works, but you do need to understand the difference between a router and a modem. Understanding the difference between various electronics like your “hard drive,” your “memory,” and “the computer” is also important. It’s important to understand what the different components of your computer are and what they do. This will be incredibly helpful when you need to report a problem to tech support.

9. Privacy Protection

While it isn’t exactly a computer command or piece of hardware, understanding how to keep your computer safe and your private information private is important. Learn how to spot phishing scams. Learn how to figure out whether a link that has been emailed to you is legitimate or not. Learn how to verify that a site is encrypted and able to protect your information before you enter anything into the system.

These are just nine computer skills that are important for today’s job market. Good luck!

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Posted by Erin Steiner

Erin Steiner is a freelance writer from Portland. She covers topics ranging from pop culture to entrepreneurship and civics.

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